As we approach the release of Halo 5: Guardians, the extended universe is also approaching the story-line of the game. The odd thing about Hunters in the Dark, is if you asked me when I finished reading the book what I thought the book was about, I would have given you a different answer than I will now. Since I’ve kept myself secluded from spoilers regarding the story of the next Halo game, I had no idea that one of the characters is a main character in the game. So I suppose that Hunters in the Dark has two underlying main plots, and after you see that, it’s hard to see much else in the book. One of the main flaws of the book is that it felt like two different stories were written and are wrestling one another for the spotlight. Apparently, that’s exactly the case.
The main, over-arching plot summoned Spartan-IVs and Sangheili to work together to stop a countdown that will fire all of the Halos and wipe out life across the galaxy. You know, that thing that Master Chief John-117 has been trying to stop since the very first Halo game. Since all of the rings are counting down, they assume the signal is coming from the Ark, that other thing Master Chief destroyed. He likes destroying Forerunner things. ONI agrees to team up with a group of the Arbiter’s trusted people and send a few Spartan-IVs, a few marines, a couple of scientists, and an ONI researcher who specializes in Sangheili relations. This specialist is Olympia Vale.
I’ll let that sink in for those who haven’t been avoiding Halo 5 spoilers.
Not much of this team seems like it would work together, and the writer seems to have known this, as he injured the commanding officer immediately, sent Vale away, and then split up the Spartan/Sangheili/scientist partymembers. As they each work out who set the countdown in the Ark and why, it’s hard to not get the sense that the writer split everyone up to either pad the story. If not for padding reasons, then it’s because the writer wasn’t sure how to make sense of everything he needed to get out there.
Vale’s character was especially awkward and stuck out the most amongst all of the other characters, and it’s not only because she was summoned away from the thick of the action to have a little chat with the other inhabitant on the Ark. She’s described as someone who had to survive on her own as a child and learn to speak Sangheili out of necessity, but then she’s described as a suit for ONI, someone who isn’t that badass after all. When the team is attacked upon landing, she is knocked out quickly and then summoned. Then at the end, she becomes that badass fighter out of nowhere and is encouraged to become a Spartan. (Yes, I know, you can shut up now.) It’s very disjointed, to say the least.
The overall story is entertaining and does a fantastic job of showing really how much the Librarian is not the wonderful Forerunner she appears to be, not to mention how awful the Forerunners were. (If you don’t believe me about the Forerunners, go read the Forerunner Trilogy and see for yourself.) I did enjoy the book, but the forced meshing of the plot and characters left the entire experience rather discombobulated. It’s not one of the best Halo novels, that is for sure.
It’s a good thing that Hunters in the Dark is a good book and not a terrible chore, as this is the only way a Halo fan will learn how one Spartan on Locke’s team became a Spartan. I also hope that these Sangheili return in Halo 5. I enjoyed learning more about them than any of the Spartans.